Where Better To Escape Trouble Than The Theatre?

Where Better To Escape Trouble Than The Theatre?

NOTE: This piece is the first in a three piece set about the Newsboy Reunion Concert on August 20, which was attended by half of the writers for the Board. All will write their own piece with their own thoughts.

When I realized that I would be in New York for the fifth Newsboys Reunion Concert, I was thrilled. In all the times I had been to New York, I had never even been to 54 Below (though, I broke my record earlier that trip by attending both the third Pronoun Showdown and Gelsey Bell in Molly Rice’s Angelmakers concert) and having seen Newsies live on tour seven times and having been a dedicated Fansie for years, I knew I had to go!

I was only more excited when I learned that fellow Board members, Hayley St. James and Gigi Gervais would also be in attendance, and Gigi called them ahead of time to see if even though we all bought tickets seperately, we could sit together. (Gigi is a wonder who makes my life so much easier and I am extremely thankful for her.)

The concert was dedicated to Alan Menken, with everyone telling stories about him between songs, from Caitlyn Caughell’s multiple auditions for Newsies to how Maddy Trumble was college roommates with his daughter Nora and he took a whole group of Nora and her friends to Disneyland, paid for everything, and at one point when waiting in one of the places, Mr. Menken just started to say “Oh, I wrote that. And that. And that one.” Of the songs that played.

I was disappointed in the fact that none of the girlsies (or newsies) sang Part of Your World, or really any Little Mermaid, but I loved Ben Fankhauser and Jess LeProtto as the Muses for Caitlyn Caughell’s I Won’t Say I’m In Love, found it charming when before singing A Whole New World together, Alex Wong lay out a towel for Maddie Trumble to stand on, and in one of my favorite performances I’ve ever seen in my entire life, Ben Fankhauser sang a mashup of Santa Fe and Out There that would give even the strongest among us goosebumps and reduced me to tears.

But the most exciting part of the night for me was not the concert, but afterwards. I know, you’re probably already rolling your eyes at me. Given my age and my gender, you’re probably picturing an over excited girl who can’t get her thoughts straight, babbling like an idiot in front of Ben Fankhauser. Well… you’ve got the general picture right. I won’t deny that I did meet someone and was so reduced emotionally that I basically broke down against the wall outside the theatre.

But it wasn’t Ben, or Jess, or any of the other Newsies. Not even one of the Girlsies. It was Stuart Zagnit, one of the Oldsies. Yes, I was that girl. I even tweeted at him before the concert to ask if he would hang around afterwards so I could get his signature. Not only did he hang out inside 54 Below and happily sign THREE things for me, he even recorded a new voice mail for me outside.

Now, depending on how much you know about Stuart Zagnit, this either makes perfect sense to you and you’re kicking yourself for not coming up with it yourself, or you’re staring at your screen squinting to make sure you read that right. Well, if you read that I asked Stuart Zagnit to record my voice mail and he did, you are on the same page. Stuart Zagnit’s not just an Oldsie, he’s also the original English voice of Professor Oak for Pokémon.

While his actual voice doesn’t sound anything like it, he was willing to put on his voice to record a voicemail message saying Molly can’t come to the phone because I’m busy helping him with important field research but if you leave a message, he’s sure I’ll get back to you. He also recorded a video for my brother saying that I had told him he was a Pokémon master in training (I hadn’t, but it was fine, because my brother had in fact sent me with a handwritten note for him that he had signed “Chet Norman, Pokémon Master In Training (Age 26)”) and out of a backpack just whipped out a full page printout that was designed to look like a Pokémon card with his picture and information and signed and personalized it for me, without me even asking.

And at the heart of it, this is why I love theatre. Of course you can catch me at home, watching BroadwayHD or Newsies live on Netflix, but I will always choose to go to it live, if I can, because of the people. Would I have seen Anastasia as many times as I have if not for Christy Altomare’s notable kindness, which has raised me to the status of “Broadhurst royalty” (her words, not mine)? Did I chase Newsies across the country the many times I did just for fun, or did I do it because I had fallen in love with the people?

The kindness of stage actors never fails to floor me. I've seen actors try to help me find the right direction when I don't know how to get where I need to go after shows, cry at the gifts I've given them, and even remember me months later. Of course, there’s always the person you catch on a bad day, or that type of thing, but as a majority, theatre actors are kind people, the type of people who will sign multiple things or even record a voicemail for you. When we speak of how we love the theatre, that is by no means just the script that can be sold, it's also the people and the moments that we can never recreate and have to just hold in our hearts.